“With the Renaissance, the art of gem carving revived, and the engravers from that time produced results that equal the best Greek and Roman work; copies of ancient gem carvings made by some of the 18th century masters are distinguishable from true antiques only by experts of great proficiency.”
Until the 16th century, minerals and gemstones were listed in ‘lapidaries’ — a document in which the characteristics and properties of the minerals were described in great detail. The earliest surviving text is contained in a monumental encyclopaedia Naturalis Historia, compiled by Pliny the Elder in the 1st century AD, and was imitated by writers on the subject throughout the Middle Ages. Some versions listed both the magical and medicinal properties of the minerals and gemstones; others revealed the astrological significance, while others gave the religious symbolism of the stones. The term ‘lapidary’, refers to either a book classifying stones, or the gemmologist, goldsmith or stonecutter himself, and by the Middle Ages there were dozens of books on the subject, although the most popular were translations from the Arabic, which
focused on the efficacy of precious stones as amulets. In Alexandria, collections of books on gemstones were commonplace among the fraternity of glasscutters and stone-engravers, and some of the titles have come down to us today.
• The Book of Stones, was believed to have been written by Aristotle (384–322BC), and examined the magical powers of gemstones, later being translated into Hebrew and Latin.
• Materia Medica of Dioscurides (1st century AD) records some two hundred ‘stones’ from a medicinal point of view, and although the majority are oxides and other minerals, a few authentic gems are also included. He served as a doctor in the Roman army during the reign of Nero.
• De Lapidibus, written by the one-time bishop, Marbode of Rennes (1035–1123) set forth the lore and uses of some 60 stones.
• The Flowers of Knowledge of Stones, written by the alchemist Shihab al-Din al-Tifashi of Cairo around 1154.
• Lapidario, the most famous of all gem books, was compiled by Alfonso X of Castile in the 13th century.
• Gemmarum at Lapidum Historia was compiled by Anselm Boethius (a doctor to Rudolph II of Prague) in 1609, and was probably the most important history of gems and stones of that century.
One of the most popular works in the Middle Ages, Marbode’s work gathered all the pertinent matter about the powers inherent in stones that had been written from antiquity until the bishop’s own time. Over 140 manuscripts of the treatise exist in the major libraries of Europe, and 18 printed editions have been published between 1511 and 1977. “Although its medical value is nil,
Marbode’s book can still tell us much about symbolism, medieval names for a variety of stones, and the psychological processes of the people of his era”, writes Frank J. Anderson in Riches of the Earth.
As we can see, the belief in the magical and healing properties of stones and crystals has a very long history, with the lapidaries of the ancient world falling into those two main classes — the medicinal, and the magical, the latter often showing a strong astrological influence. But this was not primitive superstition. Those who compiled the lapidaries were the men of intellect and knowledge of their time — the power of gemstones was a very real science as far as they were concerned.
Magic Crystals, Sacred Stones: The Magical Lore of Crystals, Minerals and Gemstones by Melusine Draco is published by Moon Books in paperback and e-book format. ISBN: 978 1 78099 137 5 - UK£11.99/US$19.95 - 186 pages.
Blue Wolf Reviews: In this book we are not only introduced to the magical properties of rocks and crystals we are taken on a guided tour of the formation(geological) of the elements that gives us a fuller understanding of the minerals as they evolve into a vast array of sacred stones. Each chapter introduces a differing aspect of formation, history and mystique complete with an exercise to encourage us to use the stones, pebbles or crystals in the correct manner. Primarily discussing geological formations, stones, pebbles etc in the Northern hemisphere the information translates, generally, globally. In some ways it is a crash course in geology but in others is comprehensive guidebook to the use and maintenance of sacred stones.
If you thought this was just another book about crystals, think again! Not only is the author an experienced magical practitioner in her own right, but her magical tutor also held a doctorate in geology – and it shows. Not just in the obvious love of the subject but in the vast store of magical information crammed into these 186 pages. Of course there is the usual list of gemstones with their correspondences but Magic Crystals, Sacred Stones goes much further in explaining that it can be the very rocks beneath our feet that generates magical energy – and how it can affect our own magical working. Did you know, for example, that many of the stones used in our ancient monuments contain a high percentage of quartz; and that quartz is the most magically potent crystal on the planet? Another interesting aspect to this book is that the exercises at the end of each chapter are designed for the purpose of creating your own personal system of divination by crystallomancy, the ancient practice of casting lots using small stones or crystals. As well as being a practical magical guide, it is a worthy successor to those two classic historical reference works The Curious Lore of Precious Stones (Kunz) and Magical Jewels (Evans).
I'm a big fan of crystals and this one is way up there with the best. As it stands it will reach the whole of the MBS audience and those interested in gems and crystals and those curious about them. Well written, loaded with information and very easy to read. The author is knowledgeable and has a knack of getting that across without being boring or in the style of, ‘this is what I know and I’m right.